Friday, March 29, 2013

The Denotation of the Biblical Term for Soul

The word "soul" (Hebrew nepes and Greek psyche) apparently has three primary meanings in the Bible:

(1) A human person.

(2) An animal.

(3) The life enjoyed by a person or animal.

Genesis 2:7 describes Adam becoming a "living being" (Amplified Bible) or a "living soul" (New World Translation). The apostle Paul also invokes this account when reproving some in the Corinthian ecclesia (1 Cor. 15:45). Furthermore, animals are called "souls" in Numbers 31:28; Ezekiel 47:9; Revelation 8:9; 16:3. For an example of psyche denoting "life," see Matthew 16:25; 20:28.

Technically, I do not believe that there is any dichotomy between the body and the soul in the OT or NT. A number of biblical commentators have also noted this point:

"The Jewish origin of the word [YUXH] is determinative: NEPES is the living quality of the flesh. The soul belongs to man's earthly existence. It does not exist without physical life. It is not, say, freed by death, then to live its untrammeled purity. Death is its end. The word YUXH can also mean the person, and this is related to SWMA, SARX and PNEUMA (Rom. 16:4: hUPER THS YUXHS MOU 'For my life')" (Conzelmann, Hans. An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament, 179).

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